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ND Women’s Basketball: ND pulls away after slow start

Vicky Jacobsen | Sunday, November 17, 2013

It took two minutes and 20 seconds for the No. 6 Irish to score their first field goal of the game Saturday, but Valparaiso never recovered from the ensuing 9-0 run and the Irish grabbed the win, 96-46.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw blamed the scattered play of the first few minutes on the pre-game induction of former guard Skylar Diggins into the Ring of Honor.
“No more emotional pre-game ceremonies. We got off to such a slow start. I thought it was the emotion of the day that was the problem,” McGraw said. “I needed a tissue after that. I think players that played with her felt it. You know, we kind of said `let’s do it for Sky,’ and that didn’t work so well.”
Senior forward Ariel Braker scored the first point of the game with a free throw, and on the next play senior guard Kayla McBride stole the ball from Valparaiso sophomore guard Jessi Wiedemann to set up a layup from sophomore guard Jewell Loyd. In the next minute of play, layups by freshman forward Taya Reimer, Loyd and freshman guard Lindsay Allen put the Irish (3-0) up by nine.
“Lindsey did a really great job of pushing the ball,” McGraw said. “She and Jewell were really the sparks offensively, especially early in the half when we really needed to get going, so I am really pleased with both of them.”
But the Crusaders did not cave in immediately. Wiedemann dropped in two 3-pointers, and sophomore guard Abby Dean added another to keep the score a manageable 15-9. Valparaiso stayed within striking distance until a three from junior guard Madison Cable stretched the Irish lead to 13 with 6:38 remaining in the first half. Cable’s basket was the first in an 18-6 Irish run that brought the score to 46-24 at halftime.
By the opening minutes of the second half, it was clear the Crusaders (0-3) had run out of gas. The Irish scored the first 12 points of the period and dominated the rest of the game, stretching their lead to 50. After the game, Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow said her team has struggled just to find enough healthy players to put on the floor. Only nine Crusaders played Saturday, and the only one who played less than 13 minutes was Jazmin Taylor, a high jumper on the track team who agreed to play basketball just a few days earlier.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Valparaiso junior forward Sharon Karungi said. “They are really athletic and it was great to play against such athletic players. They definitely had the upper hand on the inside and had a lot of players that were bigger than us but it gives us a great chance to learn.”
McGraw gave the transition game much of the credit in Saturday’s win.
“I thought it was the best our transition game has looked,” McGraw said. “We really were running the floor well. We were rebounding well and getting the ball down the court. I was really pleased with that, it was an emphasis coming out of the half. We really wanted to get on the scoreboard early. Defensively, we came up with some steals and that was a big key for us.”
Loyd led all scorers with 22 points, while Allen scored 15, a career high.
“[Loyd] is really doing a good job on both ends, offensively and defensively,” McGraw said. “She isn’t settling for shots and is attacking the basket. But she is in there fighting for rebounds all of the time. Even if she doesn’t get it she is in there trying to tip it to a teammate. She is a lot more aggressive, looking to score and we need her to do that. She drives it, she shoots the three and she’s really hard to guard because you just don’t know what she is going to do.”
Senior forward Liz Horton scored 11 points and was the only Crusader in the double-digits.
As far as box-score oddities, Reimer, a post player, finished the game with six assists, while guards Allen and Loyd combined for five. Loyd, however, grabbed seven rebounds, while Reimer corralled just one.
“In the Princeton offense the person in the post, Taya, has the ball in her hands a lot and she is going to get a lot of assists,” McGraw said. “Six assists for her is fantastic. I would like to see her rebound a lot more, though. I was disappointed in her rebounding today. She definitely needs to get on the boards more.”
Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow said she and her players watched Diggins induction ceremony before the game.
“It’s a really neat thing for her. I worked at Notre Dame camp when she was a camper in about seventh or eighth grade and you could see even then that she was something special,” Dorow said. “I was really excited to be here and to be a part of the celebration. She’s a real class act. This was big for women’s basketball.”
The Irish have a nearly week-long layoff before they head to Philadelphia to face Penn in The Palestra at 3 p.m. Saturday.
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